Denicieo Knowles: A first-generation college graduate, who did not have to pony up a penny

Denicieo Delando Knowles’ story reads like a fairytale but in actuality is reality and concludes with the mannerly young man being the first in his family to earn a college degree, and his family not having to pony up a penny.

Knowles, 21, graduated Philander Smith College on May 7 – 17 days before his 21st birthday, earning a Bachelor of Business Administration with a concentration in Accounting, magna cum laude with distinction.

“I was always passionate about numbers and I know that an accountant will always be needed,” he said on deciding his course of study.

He plans to pursue a master’s degree in accounts, and his CPA (certified public accountant) with a view of one day owning an accounting firm.

Knowles described his graduation day as “bittersweet”.

“Being the first in my family to obtain a degree makes me feel accomplished. My family looks at me as an inspiration. My young sister now wants to go to college. My aunt says she looks up to me and I’m her inspiration.”

And he didn’t pay a dollar toward his degree, at Philander Smith; he has so many scholarships, he was able to complete his degree totally free.

According to Knowles’ “fairytale” chance encounter story that took place in 2018 – it’s about being in the right place at the right time, and impressing the right person.

The graduate of Government High School (GHS), wasn’t supposed to be at school the day he had a chance encounter with Philander Smith College (PSC) President Dr. Roderick Smothers, who was visiting for a college fair, that led to him being awarded a scholarship.

“I originally wasn’t supposed to be at school that day. I went there with one of my friends to sort out some business; I was just tagging along. I went to my math teacher at that time to talk about the math BGCSE [Bahamas General Certificate of Secondary Education] – he was not there, so I went back down to the guidance building and there was this man was asking for directions to the college fair.”

Knowles had just left the building the PSC president was trying to find and he recalled contemplating if he wanted to go back. He decided to help the stranger. That decision he said was one of the best he has made in his life.

“During the walk, he asked me my grade, GPA [grade point average] and plans after high school. After I answered, he introduced himself as the president of the college. He told me to fill out some applications for college and he would personally call me – and he did within two weeks.”

That chance encounter with Smothers, that led to Knowles earning a bachelor’s degree at no cost to his family, has taught him that whenever you meet or have an encounter with someone to have manners and respect.

“My grandmother always said, ‘Manners and respect take you through the world’ – and it certainly did for me.”

Prior to meeting Smothers, Knowles had been unsure about attending college, and was confident that attending college in the United States was not going to be in his immediate plans.

After two weeks of that meeting, Knowles found himself on the campus of PSC taking the Summer Bridge Program – a five-week academic enrichment and leadership development program that provides a seamless transitional opportunity for first-time freshmen to get an early and strong start on their college careers. By completing up to 12 college credit hours during the summer, students have the opportunity to be better prepared for the academic, personal, and social obstacles that they may encounter while acclimating to a college campus.

After taking the Summer Bridge Program and achieving a 3.75 GPA, Knowles was offered a scholarship to attend PSC, but he needed an additional $10,700 to pay school fees.

Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. in The Bahamas heard of Knowles’ dilemma and within 24 hours raised the funds he needed to commence studies in August 2018. Knowles has also since been initiated into the fraternity, Beta Chi Chapter, in the spring of 2019.

Knowles regards education as a “stepstool”. He said education helps a person to reach the goal that they set for themselves, a little easier.

“When you get a good education and apply it to life, you have no choice but to be successful, because an education is one thing that someone can never take away from you.”

His advice to his peers is to always be willing to go the extra mile to accomplish goals.

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Shavaughn Moss

Shavaughn Moss joined The Nassau Guardian as a sports reporter in 1989. She was later promoted to sports editor. Shavaughn covered every major athletic championship from the CARIFTA to Central American and Caribbean Championships through to World Championships and Olympics. Shavaughn was appointed as the Lifestyles Editor a few years later.

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